The street food in Bangkok never ceases to amaze me. I know the city pretty well, but this time I wanted a different experience. I wanted local knowledge to guide me to the best morsels and hidden secrets in town. I needed to find something that was new and exciting that would surprise me. With that in mind, I arranged a Bangkok food tour with A Chef’s Tour, where your guide is a chef.
Chinatown comes alive at night and there is no doubt in my mind that it is the perfect place to experience some of the best street food Bangkok has to offer. As you walk along the streets there are hundreds of vendors cooking up a storm. Where do you start? What’s good? What’s the best because you only have limited time available?
Over the years I have learnt that just because it is on the main road doesn’t mean that it’s good. The hidden alleyways offer up some gems. This is where the locals go and without them, you would never find these vendors.
About the chef
I met Chef Nutth under the gateway that marks the entrance to Chinatown in the late afternoon. He not only is a chef but is a passionate foodie as well. His restaurant is around 200 km away from the city. He is so dedicated to sharing his knowledge and his passion that he makes a round trip of 400 km each day. I was speechless when I heard this. You really have to love what you do to be prepared to travel all that distance to share your knowledge with guests for a couple of hours. Over the course of the evening, I began to understand why he does this. His enthusiasm was infectious.
Many of the places we stopped at are no different from any other. When I asked him how he decided where we stopped his reply was that he had eaten at many of these places with his father as a young boy. No further explanation was needed.
This is no ordinary tour
Luke and Alex are the brains and developed the concept of the tour. They are hands-on and passionate about food. Nothing is left to chance. They have tasted and tried all the same food that you will be enjoying during the tour. Average is just not good enough. It has to be exceptional to make the grade and I can vouch for the fact that they have achieved their goal.
More about the Chef’s Bangkok Food Tour
The tour lasts roughly 4 hours. During this time you will explore the labyrinth of streets in Chinatown and end on Yaowarat Road. You will also try 17 different dishes so arrive with a healthy appetite to do justice to the food.
The tour is dynamic and constantly changes. This gives it a fresh approach rather than like some other tours that I have been on where you feel like you are in a sausage machine. Vendors are not around on certain days and seasonal food plays a huge role in the choices for the evening.
Learn more about local ingredients
As we wandered through the streets Chef Nutth asked us if we knew what certain ingredients were. Many of them were quite different and mostly Chinese, seeing as we were in Chinatown. Some of the more interesting ones were dried fish stomach, birds’ nests and a huge variety of herbs and flowers used in teas. He patiently explained how they were prepared as well. We passed a wet market and a local fresh produce market as well, but as it was late in the day the market was closing up. This is the market that chefs in the area head to for their fresh produce so there is no doubt about the freshness of the ingredients.
I love fruit and have tried almost all the fruit available at different times of the year, but when we stopped at a stall one came as a bit of a surprise. I ask Chef Nutth about it and he promptly bought some for us to try. Once again this demonstrated a kindness and the enjoyment he has when it comes to enlightening us on Thai food. It turned out that the fruit was longans and was a bit like a lychee and was most enjoyable.
Some of the highlights
I am not going to tell you about everything that we tasted because that would spoil the fun. Suffice it to say that there was only one item that I was not too crazy about, fish maw, which is a delicacy. The main reason for not liking it was that I am not overly fond of sauces that are heavily thickened with corn flour. The rest of the items that we tasted were fabulous.
Mussels and Morning Glory
We made our way to a restaurant that was not only noisy but very busy as well which is always a good sign. A huge bowl of mussels arrived at the table, steamed with loads of lemongrass. It was served with a side order of morning glory and soy sauce.
Morning Glory is one of my favourite vegetable in SE Asia. The leaves are wilted while the stems remain crunchy. It is also sometimes called water spinach in English. It grows in moist soil or water and is relatively easy to grow. It is worth trying if it’s something you haven’t eaten before.
Chinese Chive Dumplings
The vendor who makes these makes just this one dish and has been making it for years and years. This is so often the case with street food. The recipes are handed down through the generations. They are not tweaked, or modernized or made to look trendy and the recipe does not change. The dumplings were light as air and were little flavour bombs.
This might seem like an off thing to talk about, but it was a revelation. The cream was quite ordinary, but the topping was sensational. It is only available in one spot in Bangkok. Would you believe it if I told you that it was made from soy sauce? Not just any soy, but reduced and sweetened. Another version was a salted caramel soy. It was utterly delicious. The sweet and salty notes added to the creaminess of the ice cream were a match made in heaven. I could not resist buying some of this to take back home.
If I had done the tour on my first night in the city I would have been back every night for more of these airy treats. The sad thing was that the stall was just a little way away from my hotel and I didn’t know about it. It just goes to show that local knowledge is so important.
Back to the doughnuts. Its local name is Pa Tong Go and naturally, it originates in China. It is deep fried and crispy, but light. You can choose from a condensed milk topping or a pandan coconut custard. The pandan custard was totally moreish. I later learnt that the vendor has been included in the Michelin Guide which is really quite an achievement.
If you are looking for an insight into real street food and not the ordinary tourist version then A Chef ‘s Tour is perfect for you. The numbers on the tour are kept small to keep it on a personal basis. All I can say is that if you are a foodie then this is the only Bangkok food tour to consider.
You can book your tour directly on A Chef’s Tour website.
Disclosure: I was hosted by A Chef’s tour, but naturally these views expressed are my own.
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